Uganda Must Harness Local Talent

Published on 27th January 2009

Despite the fact that 24 year old Joseph Oloo performs brilliant scientific feats, he is struggling on his own in a one roomed house after dropping out of school. “To test or process his products, Oloo does not use any special machine. To dry chemicals for example, he uses an old laundry drier, an electric fan or the sun. He has a pounding motor and uses different patche-up clothes to sieve,” reports Onghwens Kisangala in The Independent.


Ironically, the best Oloo receives from theoretical ‘scientific experts’ that are yet to surprise the nation with any substantive material is skeptism about his abilities. This is characteristic of Ugandans about local talent and home made products.


Oloo is not alone; in the just concluded 44th graduation at Makerere University in Kampala city, four graduates of the faculty of technology were the highlight of the week-long event for developing a prototype environment friendly vehicle. The talented students received recognition and praise for their ingenuity in developing the “heart” as well as body of a vehicle currently on exhibition in Torino, Italy. Sadly, the group did not carry the prototype back to Uganda as they didn’t have the funds to finance the project. Local fundraising efforts did not yield much for them, yet for their talent, skill and determination, these undergraduates were flooded with numerous jobs and scholarship offers abroad.


Uganda’s government is yet to recognize and celebrate the abilities, talents and ingenuity in its talented resource. Talent is not necessarily acrobatics. It is  the 12 year old girl, whose melodious voice comforts souls, convicts hearts to reform and brings tears to the eyes of many, the 8 year old vagabond on the streets of Kampala, able to skillfully paint on canvas, the crippled lady seated along the highway using her lifeless legs to weave beautiful mats, bags and hats and the prisoner on death row designing exquisite stools, chairs and tables for the institution that will one day end his life.


Uganda ought to focus on its people, especially the brilliant young talented generation. They hold the mantle to change the nation for the better. Nearly half a century after independence, Uganda is still unable to meet its domestic demands without at least 50% contribution from donor agencies. Surely, this must be the biggest point of discontent for any government worth its salt, given the nation’s natural wealth in the form of minerals, agricultural potential and most of all, a talented human force. Clearly, Uganda should not suffer annual deficient if the leadership takes a deliberate move to improve the nation inwards.


Government policies have undermined change that promotes job creation as opposed to job seeking. Many talented Ugandans have suffered discouragement in the job market and ventured for opportunities abroad in what is commonly referred to as “kyeyo” (casual labour,) a disguised form of “modern slavery.” Our government has ignored the boundless skills and talent in our young people making them vulnerable and afraid to venture into private practice, which has fostered resignation to risk less living with no valuable output.


Talent can enable a nation work through its problems. With the enormous changes in societies, rumbling shifts in technology and transition from industrial age to information age, Africa’s young people, at the center of this change are a big asset.  World Competition is fierce and the survival of every nation is at stake.


It’s no news that African leadership believe in World Bank and other western policies that promote the “death” of local effort and talent and stifle the emergence of a formidable middle class independent of state patronage.We should graduate from the politics of “bread and butter” to a higher understanding of our natural freedom to choose, so as to establish democratic governments that serve universal purposes and produce the mantra of true success in the form of uniform growth and sustainability.


We can no longer afford to cling to the popular culture of blame and victimization that has chained us to our problems. Like Fredrick bastiat said, God has bestowed upon all the natural talents and capabilities to produce wealth. Talent is not limited to the disabled, needy or those who find themselves on the bad side of the law. Difficult situations simply trigger convictions to survive enabling one to reach deep and discover what they are made of.


However, it is upon each individual to discover, develop and utilize their talent to better their lives. No one should wait for difficult times to discover potential for wealth creation. We are the resources to transform own lives. The right time to do that is yesterday.

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